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Five false claims made by Atiku in the last two years

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DURING election seasons, Nigerian politicians often make several claims about critical issues, especially on economy and governance, in a bid to convince the citizens that they are fit for political offices. But when subjected to verification by fact-checkers, some of these claims have been found to be inaccurate – a development that further exposes the public to misinformation.

As the 2023 elections beckon, one of the top contenders aiming to succeed the current Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

In this analysis, The FactCheckHub recounts five out of several times that the PDP presidential candidate made misleading claims while speaking about his plans for the country.


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As a non-partisan platform, it will be recalled that The FactCheckHub had also reported the four misleading claims Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, made this year.

1. Did Abraham Lincoln run up to five to six times before becoming US president?

Speaking during an hour-long pre-recorded interview with Arise TV aired on July 22, 2022, Atiku, while defending the reason why he decided to re-contest for the presidential seat, having failed four times, said the 16th US president, Abraham Lincoln “ran up to five, six times before becoming the president of the United States”.

But a fact-check by AFP shows that Abraham Lincoln never contested the presidential election five or six times as Atiku claimed.

Even though Lincoln failed to win various elections, he only ran for president twice and won both. He won his first bid for the presidency in 1860 and was re-elected in 1864, thus making Atiku’s claim FALSE.

2. There is no law stopping public officers from doing business in Nigeria

When asked about the source of his wealth during the interview, Atiku explained that he ran a private transportation business when he was employed as a Nigerian Customs official.

“The fact that you are a public officer does not stop you from engaging in business,” he said.

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He further added: “There is no law which says you cannot engage in a legitimate business because you are a public officer. No law”.

However, when the claim was fact-checked by The Cable, findings show that his claim is FALSE.

Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Tribunal Act only allows public servants to engage and participate in running a farm, either subsistence or commercial.

Similarly, section 2 (b), Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution says a “public officer” cannot “engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade” except if “he is not employed on full-time basis.”

3. Does the oil sector represent 20 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP?

Responding to a question about his plans to lift Nigerians out of poverty during the interview, Atiku said that “Oil only maybe accounts for about 20 per cent of our GDP, the bulk of our GDP is non-oil.”

But the fact-check by The Cable revealed that the claim is FALSE.

According to the latest data from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the oil sector actually contributed even less than 6.63 per cent of the country’s GDP in the first three months (Q1) of 2022.

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In fact, the sector’s contribution has remained below 10 per cent since the last quarter (Q4) of 2017.

4. Does Nigeria have the highest unemployment rate on earth?

In a Twitter thread posted on his verified handle: @atiku on March 28, 2021, and titled: ‘World’s Highest Unemployment Rate: Time To Help This Government Help Nigeria,’ Atiku claimed that Nigeria had the highest unemployment rate in the world.

Part of the tweet reads: “In a situation where we are simultaneously the world headquarters for extreme poverty, the world capital for out-of-school children, and the nation with the highest unemployment rate on Earth, there is a very real and present danger that we might slip into the failed states index – God forbid!”

When this claim was fact-checked by The FactCheckHub, however, findings show that it is FALSE.

The most recent data from the NBS as of when this claim was made was for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020. This data put the country’s unemployment rate at 33.3 percent for a labour force population of 69.8 million and a total unemployed population of 23. 2 million people.

However, the NBS stated that using the international metric, Nigeria’s unemployment rate would be 17.5 per cent.  This puts Bosnia & Herzegovina and Namibia at the top of the list with 33.7 per cent and 33.4 per cent respectively.

Similarly, the ranking done by Trading Economics also listed Bosnia & Herzegovina and Namibia at the top with  33.89 per and  33.4 percent respectively.

Also, data presented by The World Bank in January 2021 revealed that Nigeria’s unemployment rate which stood at nine per cent did not top the table list. South Africa had 28.5 per cent rate; Botswana, 17.2 per cent; Libya, 18 per cent; Gabon, 20.5 per cent, and Namibia, 20.4 percent.

This, among other diverse sources presented above, made Atiku’s claim on Nigeria’s unemployment rate at that time FALSE.

5. Did Nigeria clear off her debt between 1999 – 2007?

On October 2nd, 2020, the former Vice President claimed that Nigeria paid off her entire external (foreign) debt and maintained 6% GDP growth between 1999 and 2007.

Atiku made the claim in a viral tweet posted via his verified Twitter handle.

The tweet reads: “Between 1999 and 2007, Nigeria paid off her entire foreign debt while maintaining an unprecedented 6% annual GDP growth. Those were periods of national restoration, and I am very proud of the work President Obasanjo and I did for this nation we care so much for. Facts don’t lie.”

However, a fact-check by The ICIR revealed that the claim is FALSE.

According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the nation’s external debt stock as of the 31st of March, 2007 was approximately $3.29 billion which later climbed to $3.65 billion by the 31st of December, 2007. Therefore, Atiku’s claim that Nigeria paid off her entire foreign debt between 1999 – 2007 is FALSE.

This is republished from the FactCheckHub. You can read the original here

Author profile

Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in the society. You can shoot him a scoop via nyahaya@icirnigeria.org and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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